Liquid invasion into a porous medium is a phenomenon of great importance in both nature and technology. Despite its enormous importance, there is a surprisingly sparse understanding of the processes occurring on the scale of individual pores and of how these processes determine the global invasion pattern. In particular, the exact influence of the wettability remains unclear besides the limiting cases of very small or very large contact angles of the invading fluid. Most quantitative pore-scale experiments and theoretical considerations have been conducted in effectively two-dimensional (2D) micromodels and Hele–Shaw geometries. Although these pioneering works helped to unravel some of the physical aspects of the displacement processes, the relevance of 2D models has not always been appreciated for natural porous media. With the availability of X-ray microtomography, 3D imaging has become a standard for exploring pore-scale processes in porous media. Applying advanced postprocessing routines and synchrotron microtomography, researchers can image even slow flow processes in real time and extract relevant material parameters like the contact angle from the interfaces in the pore space. These advances are expected to boost both theoretical and experimental understanding of pore-scale processes in natural porous media.
|Number of pages
|Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics
|Published - Jan 2019